Happy Anniversary, George A. Custer. You Didn't Learn From Interventionism Either.

Battle of the Little Big HornPublic DomainOn June 25-26, Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors demonstrated that even underdog natives have a fighting chance against the forces of an advanced and aggressive power—at least if the advanced troops are led by a vain and arrogant commander and hobbled by idiotic bureaucracy. Once widely venerated as an American hero, George Armstrong Custer is now largely regarded as a brutal enforcer of inhumane policies against Native Americans, and man who paved the way to his own demise—while taking a lot of other people with him.

James "Public Policy Hooligan" Bovard notes the historical significance of the date, and the lessons to be drawn from it.

On this day in 1876, George S. Custer led his 7th Cavalry regiment to their demise in Montana. The Battle of Little Big Horn was one of the biggest defeats suffered by the U.S. Army in the war against the Indians. It is only in recent years that proper attention has been paid to the role of atrocities by Custer and other military leaders in stirring up the wrath of oppressed Indians.

Custer was something of a protégé of General Philip Sheridan, he of "the only good Indians I ever saw were dead" fame. That was a quote Sheridan denied uttering, though his prosecution of the Indian Wars lived up to its tone, and Custer was a tool in that prosecution. Not surprisingly, such ham-handed attacks on Native Americans provoked anger and led to retaliation.

The Battle of Little Big Horn was lost by Custer and his soldiers not just because he stirred a hornet's nest and then stuck his head (and those of his men) in, but because his troops were denied the products of the industrial civilization they represented. As Bovard puts it, "Custer's men were wiped out in part because the Army Quartermaster refused to permit them to carry repeating rifles—which supposedly wasted ammo. The Indians didn’t have a quartermaster, so they had repeating rifles, and the rest is history."

There is no arrogant, oppressive power so overwhelming that it can't be crippled by red tape.

It's not as if Custer hadn't had ample warning that his good looks on horseback were insufficient defense against the wrath of guerrilla forces. While leading his troops at the Washita Massacre, during which he attacked and killed Cheyenne Indians living peacefully on reservation land, he was almost cut off when he discovered that the settlement he attacked was only one of many.

Custer also went up, at great cost, Bovard points out, against the Confederacy's Col. John S. Mosby. Mosby very effectively used irregular tactics against Union forces in a lesson from which Custer apparently learned nothing.

Failing to learn from experience, whether it's a matter of response to tactics, or to avoid policies that invite blowback, is as much a problem now as it was then.

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  • Libertymike||

    Let it be duly noted that I have already alerted the commentariat to this very special of days in an earlier thread.

  • Winston||

    So Too Chilly attack a Union general? Ipso facto he is a slaver. Where's Bo?

  • Libertymike||

    What the linked article fails to mention is that Chief Black Kettle of the southern Cheyenne hoisted the ole stars n' stripes in hopes that the brutal, mass murdering "veterans who fight for our freedoms" would somehow spare him and his village.

  • John||

    Oh Jesus tap dancing Christ Turcelle. You have to be pretty far up the retarded scale to think Custer's last stand is some kind of argument against interventionism. Things didn't work out well for Custer but they didn't exactly work out so well for the Sioux either.

    I think I may save this link as some kind of a museum piece of the dumbest post ever put up by a Hit and Run staffer. There is just so much in it that is either stupid or completely at odds with the actual history of the event. It is hard to know where to begin. But lets start with the idiotic idea that Sioux were a guerrilla force. They didn't hide among their civilians or pretend to be something other than what they were. They were a an actual army that fought in a very organized and often effective fashion. This wasn't a guerrilla action. It was one superior force facing another and leaving a greasy spot behind. Since Reason has a character limit, I will leave it to the other commenters to stop the stupid in this post.

  • Acosmist||

    Dumbest?

    Chapman will beat that within a week.

  • John||

    It is a subjective determination. This one hits on a lot of my pet peeves about Reason and in general. Mostly, bad history, ignorance over the use of military power, and peacenik isolationism. JD is always neck and neck with Chapman in the race for the Dave Weigel why the fuck did they hire him chair at Reason. But this is going to be for me at least hard to top.

  • ||

    Hey, don't sell Soave short. His "takedown" of The Ohio State University and Gordon Gee's salary had leftist griefer written all over it.

    The kid's got the cosmotarian gift. Like The Shine or something.

  • Les||

    But it's hard to take you seriously when you actually and unironically use the term "peacenik isolationism."

  • Cytotoxic||

    Whoah whoah John JD is usually a pretty swell guy this dumb post aside. The Derpmens are both much worse.

  • ||

    A week? My ass. He will beat it with his next post. Chapman is a nearly a shreek-level lefty idiot.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    On June 25-26, Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors demonstrated that even underdog natives have a fighting chance against the forces of an advanced and aggressive power—at least if the advanced troops are led by a vain and arrogant commander and hobbled by idiotic bureaucracy.

    How is this wrong, or non-applicable to anything our idiot govt does overseas?

  • John||

    Fuck the reason servers.

    First, the were not at least that day underdogs. They had a really large and conventional force. Second, they eventually got their asses kicked and ended up on reservations with their culture virtually extinct. Only someone as stupid as JD could take that as an example of how our evil arrogant government can never win. I would say they won pretty big there.

    Also, that statement is offensively racist and patronizing. The Indians were outnumbered and were fighting a losing battle, but they were not children. They had technologically advanced weapons for the time and had a lot of good days in the Indian wars. They were a worthy opponent and noble people. Fuck JD for dismissing them as "underdog natives". Why don't he just be honest and call them groovy brown people or something.

  • ||

    I think the "underdog" label is still applicable, John. Just look at the wars up to that point. Sure, there were some good days on the Indian side but they were few and far between.

    Just a nitpick because I tend to agree with your overall premise about the article.

  • John||

    They were certainly underdogs overall. The Indians were pretty much doomed when it turned out they didn't have any immunity to European diseases. They lost too much of their population to ever have any hope of stopping the Europeans.

    But militarily, they had the home field advantage and even though the US had a huge population, supporting a force out in the wilds of Montana was pretty difficult. The Indian wars have been largely forgotten but this wasn't the only time the Indians got the better of things.

  • ||

    Home field is a bit overrated when it comes to a vastly superior military in both materiel and manpower, let alont tactics and strategy.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    You aren't underdogs if you outnumber your opponent 5-1 and are armed with rifles.

    Custer marched right into a hornet's nest, he just assumed the Indians would panic and scatter in the face of his troops.

  • ||

    I'm pretty sure they were underdogs in the war, not necessarily in that battle...and certainly not in retrospect.

    Pretty sure the Union thought they had a better than even chance of winning the battle and outnumbering their opponent as they had managed to do for the bulk of the wars to that point.

  • Not an Economist||

    I don't think they regularly outnumbered there opponents. Far more often superior tactics, training, and weapons won out against superior numbers. This particular times tactics and weapons were on the Indian side.

  • ||

    Wait, so 2-Chilli is a Redskins fan after all?

  • Winston||

    So does this mean that Jim Crow, Woodrow Wilson, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were blowback too?

  • ||

    The only blowback from the Indian Wars are the slots payouts at Cache Creek.

  • Libertymike||

    You do remember who the architect of the "pacification of the plains" was, don't you?

    You do know what life was like before him and what it was after him, right?

  • ||

    No and no. I assume Sheridan was the former.

    Pretty sure life sucked before and after him.

    I was just making a joke about the payouts at Cache Creek sucking ass.

  • MJGreen||

    And Elizabeth Warren?

  • Sevo||

    So the lesson is waste that ammo!

  • ||

    Superior firepower certainly weighs in one's favor.

  • PapayaSF||

    I had not heard that bit about repeating rifles. I have read that the reason Gatling guns were not used more widely in the Civil War was that it was feared they would "waste" ammo.

  • db||

    Why do you hate the troops, J.D.?

  • John||

    What lesson does JD want us to learn here? That the key to winning a war is coming in really big with a lot of firepower and just exterminate your enemy? I really can't argue with that but I am not sure that is what JD had in mind here.

  • Sevo||

    Never send a trooper where you can send a bullet.

  • ||

    ...said every cop in today's America.

  • creech||

    Maybe the lesson is that don't go to war with weapons that were designed for the last war? Custer's men were armed with single shot breechloaders, the government having sold off the more modern Spencer seven shot repeaters to foreigners. Recent archaeological evidence shows that many of Custer's weapons malfunctioned because they were using corroded and degraded leftover Civil War ammo.

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